Rootstocks for fruit

Many fruit trees and some ornamentals are grafted onto rootstocks. These rootstocks control the vigour of the plant, allowing the cultivation of trees and bushes in a smaller space than if they were grown on their own roots.

Malus domestica 'Red Falstaff' on rootstock M27. Credit: RHS.

Quick facts

  • Rootstocks control the ultimate height of the tree
  • Rootstocks can improve disease resistance
  • MM106 (semi-dwarfing) is the most popular rootstock for apples

What are rootstocks?

Rootstocks are used to restrict the vigour of fruit trees and allow a range to grow in a small space. They can also contribute to the disease resisting abilities of the plant.

Rootstock choice

Apples

Name of rootstock: M27 (extremely dwarfing)
Suitable for: Dwarf pyramids, spindlebush or stepovers, for small gardens where the soil is fertile
Start fruiting: After two years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: Plants reach 1.2-1.8m (4-6ft) x 1.5m (5ft)
Growing conditions: Good weed and grass free soil. Water plants during drought. Unsuitable on poor soil and for weak cultivars
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 1.2-1.5 (4-5ft) apart with 1.8m (6ft) between rows

Name of rootstock: M9 (dwarfing)
Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, spindlebush, cordons; an excellent stock for small gardens
Start fruiting: After two or three years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) x 2.7m (9ft)
Growing conditions: Good weed and grass free soil. Water plants during drought
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 2.4-3m (8-10ft) apart with 3.6m (12ft) between rows

Name of rootstock: M26 (dwarfing)
Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, spindlebush, cordon, espalier and is ideal for containers
Start fruiting: After two or three years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 2.4-3m (8-10ft) x 3.6m (12ft)
Growing conditions: Average soils including grassed orchards
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 2.4-3.6m (8-12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between rows

Name of rootstock: MM106 (semi-dwarfing)
Suitable for: All forms except standards
Start fruiting: After three or four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 3-4m (10-13ft) x 4m (13ft)
Growing conditions: Tolerant of a range of soils including grassed orchards and poor soils. The most widely used rootstock, but unsuitable for small gardens.
Staking: 5 years; longer in exposed locations
Spacing: 3.6 (12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between the rows

Name of rootstock: MM111 (vigorous)
Suitable for: standards and half standards
Start fruiting: After four or five years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 4-4.5 (13-15ft) x 4.5 (15ft) less on light soils
Growing conditions: Suitable for most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils
Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as 2-3 year old trees need staking for the first 3 years
Spacing: 4.5m (15ft) apart with 6m (20ft) between rows

Name of rootstock: M25 (very vigorous)
Suitable for: Standards
Start fruiting: After five or six years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: +4.5 (15ft) x 6m (20ft)
Growing conditions: Most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils. They are too vigorous for most gardens except where the soil is poor
Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as two- or three-year-old trees need staking for the first 3 years
Spacing: 6m (20ft)

Pears and quinces

Name of rootstock: Quince C (dwarfing)
Suitable for: Cordon, bush, central leader
Start fruiting: After four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 2.5-3m (6-10ft)
Growing conditions: Fertile, moisture retentive soil
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 3m (6-10ft)

Name of rootstock: Quince A (semi-vigorous)
Suitable for: Fan, cordon, bush, central leader, half-standard, espalier
Start fruiting: After four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 3-4.5m (10-15ft)
Growing conditions: Most medium to heavy fertile soils
Staking: Retain for five years
Spacing: 3-4.5m (10-15ft)

Plums, gages, damsons

Name of rootstock: Pixy (semi-dwarfing)
Suitable for: Cordon, dwarf bush
Start fruiting: Three or four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 3-4m (10-12ft)
Growing conditions: Good light, loamy soil
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 4m (12ft)

Peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, gages, damsons

Name of rootstock: Saint Julian A (semi-vigorous)
Suitable for: Bush, half standard, fan-trained
Start fruiting: After three or four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 4.5-5m (14-18ft)
Growing conditions: heavy soils are tolerated
Staking: 5 years
Spacing: 5m (18ft)

Name of rootstock: Torinel (semi-vigorous)
Suitable for: Bush, half standard, fan-trained, good for containers
Start fruiting: After three or four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 2.4-3m (6-10ft)
Growing conditions: loamy
Staking: Five years
Spacing: 3m (10ft)

Cherry

Name of rootstock: Gisela 5 or G5 (semi-dwarfing)
Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, fan
Start fruiting: Three or four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 2.4-3m (8-10ft)
Growing conditions: Fertile, loamy soil
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 2.7m (9ft)

Name of rootstock: Colt (semi-vigorous)
Suitable for: Bush, half standard, fans
Start fruiting: After three or four years
Ultimate height as trained as bush: 6m (20ft)
Growing conditions: Many soils tolerated including clay and light, chalky soils
Staking: Permanently
Spacing: 6m (20ft)

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